President Barack Obama said that Republican refusal to implement higher taxes on the very wealthy is what is delaying action to avoid the impending “fiscal cliff,” as he put more pressure on Congress to come up with a plan to avert it.
“They say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they’re behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected,” Obama told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That seems to be their only overriding, unifying theme.”
Obama said that he had attempted to reach out to Republicans for weeks, but they are blocking plans to tax the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
“They have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers,” Obama said. He added, “I suggested to them if they can’t do a comprehensive package of smart deficit reductions, let’s at minimum make sure that people’s taxes don’t go up and that 2 million people don’t lose their unemployment insurance.”
The so-called fiscal cliff refers to automatic spending cuts and tax increases that will go into effect on Jan. 1 unless another deal is reached. Some analysts believe that it would negatively affect the U.S.’s economic recovery and undo much of the work that was done to climb out of its recession four years ago.
“I was modestly optimistic yesterday, but we don’t yet see an agreement,” Obama said in the interview. “And now the pressure’s on Congress to produce.”
Senate leaders worked over the weekend in an attempt to avoid the fiscal cliff, reported The Washington Post, which said that negotiators had not yet resolved “two key tax issues” or extending unemployment benefits.
They are negotiating a deal that would renew unemployment benefits for 2 million people that are set to expire in the new year.
Obama said that if Congress fails to act, it could hurt most American families.
“If Congress doesn’t act, then everybody’s taxes go up. And for the average family that could mean a loss of $2,000 income,” Obama said. “For the entire economy that means consumers have a lot less money to make purchases, which means businesses are going to have a lot less customers, which means that they’re less likely to hire and the whole economy could slow down at a time when the economy is actually starting to pick up.”
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